Chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef have signed a declaration reiterating the Chief Rabbinate’s opposition to Jews visiting the Temple Mount.

The Chief Rabbinate has – since its inception under Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook in 1921 – banned Jews from visiting the site out of a concern they may inadvertently step into an area which, in Jewish law, it is forbidden to enter unless one is ritually pure. It is not possible to perform the purification ceremony today for various halachic reasons.

In their signed declaration, Lau and Yosef said they were repeating the prohibition first issued by Kook against going up to the Temple Mount.

“In light of [those] neglecting [this ruling], we once again warn that nothing has changed and this strict prohibition remains in effect for the entire area [of the Temple Mount],” the chief rabbis wrote.

The declaration, which was promoted and advanced by senior national-religious leader Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, was also signed by several other leading rabbis, including former chief rabbis Shlomo Amar and Bakshi Doron, Rabbi Tzvi Tau, dean of the haredi-Zionist Yeshiva Har Hamor, and others.

In recent years, increasing numbers of religious people have ascended to the site, largely due to the activities of several religious organizations which promote Jewish rights and Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount complex.

Their activities have been given religious sanction by several leading national-religious rabbis, who rule that it is possible to visit the Temple Mount without entering the prohibited areas.

Rabbi Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Kiryat Shmona and Hebron, and one of the most respected national-religious authorities in Jewish law, reiterated his position recently in the Shabbat pamphlet Gilui Da’at that it is halachically permissible to visit the Temple Mount.

The increasing number of people visiting the site and the increasingly vocal campaign insisting on the right of Jews to visit and pray there have led to increased tensions at the Temple Mount and intense political opposition from Arab MKs.

In a Knesset committee hearing on the issue in November, MK Jamal Zahalka of Balad accused Bayit Yehudi lawmakers who are supportive of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount of being “pyromaniacs,” telling them “you’re playing with fire and you’re starting an inferno.”

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